Russia bails Kiwi Greenpeace activist David Haussmann

Nelson man to be freed from Russian jail

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 07:14 20/11/2013
David Haussmann
Reuters
BAILED: David John Haussmann attends the bail hearing.

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The partner of Nelson man David Haussmann, who is one of nine Greenpeace activists granted bail by Russian courts overnight, said today she will not be celebrating until he is home.

Sarah Watson, who is expecting the couple's second child in February, said it remained unclear just what the bail conditions were, and that they were not getting too excited until they had firm and official confirmation.

Foreign media reported overnight that Russian courts granted bail to nine jailed foreign Greenpeace activists, including Mr Haussmann, which was a turnaround in Russia's treatment of the 30 people facing trial over a protest against Arctic oil drilling. On Monday, courts in St Petersburg ordered three Russians were to be released on bail but ruled that Colin Russell, an Australian, should be held until February 24.

Ms Watson said she did not want to think too far ahead at this point.

"It's just how I have to be, otherwise I'll lose the plot. I'm just waiting to hear - I will take Theo to kindy today, come home and see what Greenpeace can tell me," Ms Watson said.

Mr Haussmann's brother Tony Haussmann of Marlborough said it was good news that at least his brother was out of jail and the cramped conditions, but he was "a long way from home".

"I'm happy with what's happened, and finally we're seeing at least some common sense.

"I expect to find out more today about the terms and conditions of bail."

Mr Haussmann was among activists from Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Italy, France, Finland and Poland who were each granted a 2 million rouble (NZ$73,226) bail in hearings over their detention since the September protest at an offshore Russian oil rig.

Greenpeace New Zealand campaign manager Carmen Gravatt told the Nelson Mail today that the organisation had instigated bail payments, but reiterated statements from Greenpeace international that it was erring on the side of caution, and it was not clear if those bailed would be able to leave.

Greenpeace representative Mads Christensen said those bailed could be restricted to Russian territory.

"Nobody at Greenpeace is celebrating yet."

Foreign media reported that the bail rulings did not specify travel restrictions, but a lawyer for one said the activists will need investigators' permission to change places of residence. Mr Haussmann's lawyer, Alexander Mukhortov, said the foreigners can leave Russia but are obliged by law to be available to investigators.

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Mr Gravatt said the bail hearing for Australian-based New Zealander Jon Beauchamp, was set for tomorrow.

Mr Haussmann, 49, the electrical engineer on the Arctic Sunrise, the Greenpeace icebreaker that was used in the protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, was reported as saying the decision was a victory of common sense.

Ms Gravatt said reported comments from Mr Haussmann that he was looking forward to coming home could simply have been his understanding of what transpired, but could not be taken as something that might happen soon.

Speaking from the defendant's cage in court, Mr Haussmann told reporters he would fly home to New Zealand to be with his three year-old son and his partner.

"I will hug my partner Sarah and my boy Theo," he said, smiling. "I'll be much happier when I'm home."

The rulings signalled a shift in Russia's handling of the case, which has fuelled Western criticism of President Vladimir Putin's third term. Courts had repeatedly refused to free them on bail in previous hearings.

Investigators had sought three-month extensions of detention for the activists from 18 countries, but the Kremlin may believe releasing some on bail could ease criticism of Russia, which hosts the Winter Olympics in February, foreign media said.

Western leaders and celebrities, such as Sir Paul McCartney, have expressed concern over the case and have urged leniency for the Greenpeace crew.

The activists, who were initially charged with piracy which was widely condemned as being disproportionate in relation to the offence, had charges changed to hooliganism over the protest, in which two tried to scale an oil platform in the Pechora Sea which is Russia's first offshore rig in the Arctic.

All 30 face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

- Reuters

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